For those of you not familiar with the Peoples’ Republic of Pennsylvania, the state has a monopoly on both spirits and wine sales (except PA wineries which are accorded “special” status).
So, lunchtime Friday I was in a local Wine & Spirits Shoppe (the state likes quaint names for its government monopolies) and spied a bottle of the 2005 Domaine Drouhin Laurene with a “sticker” price under $50. As I had no time for research, and a meeting ahead of me, I waited until I got home that evening to check it out.
The PLCB website had a much higher advertised price ($69.99), so I figured they had failed to put a new sticker on the bottle when the price changed.
So, I returned to the store Friday night, grabbed the bottle (still marked “$49.99”) and headed to checkout. Lo and behold, the scan comes up “$69.99.” I point to the sticker on the bottle, and now the clerk doesn’t know what to do. First, he calls the “specialty wine manager” who eyes me suspiciously and asks, “Where did you get this?” as if I had procured it from secret stash (or, worse, switched stickers from another bottle). I tell him it was in the “cold room,” and he disappears with the bottle. 5 minutes later, he returns and tells me it was a “mistake” for the bottle to be available for purchase.
I point to a poster not 10 feet away announcing that Veronique Drouhin-Boss herself will be appearing live and in person at that very store in a week, and suggest she might be interested in this “mistake.”
Next up: the store manager on duty. He chides the “specialty wine manager” and assures me he will sell me the bottle for $49.99. One problem - it’s virtually impossible to override a price in the PLCB computer system. Four phone calls (I think the last one may have been to Ed Rendell) and nine (count 'em, nine!) override attempts later, I hand the store manager my Visa card, and walk out with the bottle for $49.99.
Lesson: a single bottle purchase amounting to under $50 required the, ahem, “expertise” of at least 7 PA government employees, and more than 15 minutes to complete. Another great story to tell my students when someone asks what’s wrong with the government having a monopoly in any aspect of our lives.